«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
Finally, he created the soul of the world, placed that soul in the center of the world's body and diffused it in every direction. Having been created as a perfect, self-sufficient, and intelligent being, “the world he brought into being was a blessed God" (ibid, p. 58). The Kosmos itself was thus regarded as a living, divine being, animated by the same principle or substance that brought life to the 56 animals within it—the anima mundi, the living soul of the universe (Inwood, 2005 (1995)-a). This ancient idea recently resonated in the scientific Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock, which proposes the entire world as one vast, living, selfregulating organism—a notion embraced by several strands in contemporary environmental thought (Hay, 2002). In his account, Plato portrays the universe as a purposively constructed and beautifully arranged cosmos, in which the macrocosm is analogous to the microcosm. Human morality was based on this cosmic order, which was revealed in the visible architecture of the heavens. The Timaeus thus lays out a cosmology in which a metaphysical Theory of Forms is integrated with a general physical theory (Cornford, 2000 (1973)).
As Tarnas (1991) notes:
While for other contemporary cultures the heavens remained, like the overall world view, principally a mythological phenomenon, for the Greeks the heavens became linked as well to geometrical constructions and physical explanations, which in turn became basic components of their evolving cosmology. The Greeks thereby bestowed to the West a tradition which demanded that a cosmology not only must satisfy the human need to exist in a meaningful universe—a need already served by the archaic mythological systems—but must also delineate a coherent physical and mathematical structure of the universe accounting for detailed systematic observations of the heavens (pp. 49-50).
Both ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ were thus vital constituents of the Greek cosmology. Complementary to the mythical approach and worldview, these first philosophers and scientists considered the world thus also intelligible in a rational way, and the human being, with his higher intellectual faculties, well prepared to understand that world (Boersema, 2001). As Taylor (1989) emphasizes, reason in this context is understood as the capacity to see the order that is there, that is, to be ruled by the correct vision or understanding: “Reason reaches its fullness in the vision of the larger order, which is also the vision of the Good” (p. 123). Precisely because of the order reigning over all—the universal, moral laws that connected the celestial with the terrestrial realms, and humanity with the larger world—the human being was considered to be able to 57 understand and have knowledge of the world. The belief that the universe is governed according to a comprehensive regulating intelligence, and that this same intelligence is reflected in the human mind, rendering it capable of knowing the cosmic order, was characteristic of Hellenic thought (Tarnas, 1991). So although there is in this conception a clear differentiation between the self and things, there is also a correspondence between mind and world (Brague, 2003)—an assumption that would be critically questioned, about two thousand years later, by Immanuel Kant.
would be translated into the English ‘worldview.’ He did this in his Kritik der Urtheilskraft (Critique of Judgment), published in 1790, in a “quintessential Kantian paragraph that accents the power of the perception of the human mind” (Naugle, 2002, p. 58). Or, in other words, in a paragraph that shifted the
balance from the world to its viewer:
29 In Kant’s words: „Das gegebene Unendliche aber dennoch ohne Widerspruch auch nur denken zu können, dazu wird ein Vermögen, das selbst übersinnlich ist, im menschlichen Gemüthe erfordert. Denn nur durch dieses und dessen Idee eines Noumenous, welches selbst keine Anschauung verstattet, aber doch der Weltanschauung, als bloßer Erscheinung, zum Substrat untergelegt wird, wird das Unendliche der Sinnenwelt in der reinen intellectuele Größenschäßung unter einem Begriffe ganz zusammengefaßt, obzwar es in der 58 Kant speaks here of the attempt of human reason to form a comprehensive outlook on the totality of empirical things. That is, he articulates the relationship between the human subject and the objects surrounding him, into a framework of understanding: a Weltanschauung. That outlook explicitly is a total view, covering ‘everything.’ He also states that this outlook, comprehending the infinite sensible world into a non-contradictory whole, itself can only be supersensible, and therefore no conclusions can be drawn from it about the noumenon: the universe and the connections between things in themselves (Ritter, Gründer, & Gabriel, 2004, p. 453). This is called Kant’s transcendental Idealism: the idea that the mind constitutes the known universe because we can only know things within the framework of our own creation (Allison, 2005 (1995)). With that, Kant elevates the human mind, because it is the power and magnitude of the human mind that is able to creatively organize the infinite, contradicting and often chaotic world of sense into a comprehensive and orderly whole (Naugle, 2002).
Although Kant used the term Weltanschauung only once, it is, in retrospect, not surprising that the history of this central concept starts with his ‘Copernican Revolution in philosophy’—which was profoundly influenced by the startling and in many ways disorienting discoveries of the scientific revolution. In the words of Tarnas (1991), “as Copernicus had explained the perceived movement of the heavens by the actual movement of the observer, so Kant explained the perceived order of the world by the actual order of the observer” (p. 347). In a response to the conflicting, but in themselves convincing, claims from natural science and skeptical philosophy, Kant introduced the notion of the a priori structures of the mind—such as space, time, and causality. These a priori forms and categories of understanding shape the noumenon (das Ding an sich), or the world in itself, into the phenomenon, the world as it appears to the human subject (Reill & Wilson, 2004). The world natural
science describes is therefore a world ordered by the mind’s cognitive apparatus:
man knows reality precisely to the extent that reality conforms to the structures of his mind, and causality and the necessary laws of science are thus built into the framework of his cognition, his Weltanschauung. The mind does not conform mathematischen durch Zahlenbegriffe nie ganz gedacht werden kann“ (see Kant, 1968 (1790)).
We could say that rationality is no longer defined substantively, in terms of the order of being, but rather procedurally, in terms of the standards by which we construct orders in science and life. For Plato, to be rational we have to be right about the order of things. For Descartes rationality means thinking according to certain canons. The judgment now turns on the properties of the activity of thinking rather than on the substantive beliefs that emerge from it (p. 156).
This revealed an essential hierarchy and division in the world: rational man knows his own awareness to be certain, and entirely distinct from the external world of material substance, which is epistemologically less certain and perceptible only as object (Tarnas, 1991, p. 277). This resulted in the Cartesian dualism—between human and nature, consciousness and matter, subject and object, mind and body—that much green literature has identified as ultimately responsible for the current ecological malaise (Hay, 2002; Plumwood, 1993).
This ‘turn to the subject’ necessitated the objectification of the world, or, in Max Weber’s famous term, “the disenchantment of the world” (die Entzauberung der Welt). According to Taylor (1989), “we could also call it neutralizing the cosmos, because the cosmos is no longer seen as the embodiment of a meaningful order 60 which can define the good for us. … We demystify the cosmos as a setter of ends by grasping it mechanistically and functionally as a domain of possible means” (p. 149). This differentiation between subjective self and objective world generated a new notion of individual independence and emancipation, because “the disengaged subject is an independent being, in the sense that his or her paradigm purposes are to be found within, and not dictated by the larger order of which he or she is part” (pp. 192-193).
By his differentiation between noumenon and phenomenon and his assertion that we cannot have knowledge of the world in itself, Kant affirms Descartes’ ontological cleft between res cogitans (thinking substance; subject) and res extensa (extended substance; object), even as he complexifies it. The immediate consequence of Kant’s limitation of knowledge was that it virtually ruled out traditional metaphysics (Allison, 2005 (1995)). While science could claim certain knowledge of appearances, it could no longer claim knowledge over all of reality. And it is precisely this differentiation that allowed Kant to reconcile scientific determinism with religious belief and moral freedom: science and religion described different worlds and were thus no longer in contradiction.
By restricting science to appearances, room is left for morality with respect to things in themselves. Though everything in the realm of appearance, including human action, is causally determined, it remains conceivable that human beings, considered as noumena, are free. The project of justifying morality for Kant thus turned crucially on the establishment of our noumenal freedom (Allison, 2005 (1995)). Kant thereby initiates a more radical notion of freedom: “The moral law is what comes from within; it can no longer be defined by any external order.
But it is not defined by the impulse of nature in me either, but only by the nature of reasoning, by, one might say, the procedures of practical reasoning….” (C.
Taylor, 1989, p. 364). Therefore, rational beings have a unique dignity. In contrast with everything else in nature, which conforms to laws blindly, rational beings are potentially free and self-determining.
From its coinage in Kant, the term ‘Weltanschauung’ evolved quickly and the term prospered in the following decades, especially under the influence of a number of key thinkers mostly in the German Idealist and Romantic traditions (Ritter et al., 2004). By the century’s midpoint, Weltanschauung had infiltrated a number of other disciplines, and started to penetrate other
immensely popular, and by its end it had made its way into virtually every speech community in the Western world, either as a loan translation (‘worldview’) or a loanword (‘weltanschauung’), or in both ways, as in the English language (Wolters, 1989).
2.3.3 Goethe’s ‘Lebenswelt’ Although he is not a philosopher in the formal sense, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is an interesting figure for the history of worldviews. With his Naturphilosophie he articulated an alternative to the dominant worldview and science of his days, which still resonates within environmental thought. Goethe is often considered as part of the Romantic Movement, which can be seen as the first broad expression of an ecological impulse (Hay, 2002). With Goethe, the concept of Weltanschauung evolved into the capacity of the individual—who is formed by personal, embodied experience, and is thus not a transcendental subject, as with Kant—to constitute, give shape to, his own experiential life world, or Lebenswelt (Ritter et al., 2004). With that, Goethe prepared for the individualizing of the worldview concept. In his view, each individual develops a conception of the world in accordance with his own potential and requirements.
As Simmel (2007) remarks about Goethe’s thought:
This is shown most clearly by a statement that is initially a self-confession
but announces, quite generally, his thought on knowledge acquisition:
“Had I not already carried the world within me through its anticipation, I would have remained blind while seeing, and all research and experience would have been nothing more than a lifeless and vain effort.” Here it is thus not just the form but the whole of existence, the unity of form and content, which in a mysterious way, are derived from within (p. 169).
Although it may appear as if this ‘within’ through which Goethe feels enabled to see the world resembles Kant’s a priori principles, Kant’s structures are alienated from the world in itself (which they do not give access to), while for Goethe this inner experience, especially in its more pure and mature form, is an expression of the world in itself, of Nature. For him, cognition is an immediate, 62 organic function of Leben, the divine life of Nature, which is adequate and true to the extent to which it arises from the unitary ground and the mode of being in the world of this very Leben (Goethe, 1950 (1782)). Both Kant and Goethe tried to rescue the integrity of the moral. However, while Kant proposes a radical break with nature (which is part of the phenomenal domain described by deterministic science), Goethe and the Romantics propose that morality is “to be discovered in the élan of nature itself, from which we have cut ourselves off” (C.
Taylor, 1989, p. 382). As Tarnas (1991) observes, In Goethe’s vision, nature permeates everything, including the human mind and imagination. Hence nature’s truth does not exist as something independent and objective, but is revealed in the very act of human cognition. The human spirit does not simply impose its order on nature, as Kant thought. Rather, nature’s spirit brought forth its own order through man, who is the organ of nature’s self-revelation (p. 378).